While A.J. Burnett is definitely available, the Marlins don't want him winding up pitching against them while he's wearing a Phillies uniform. They're slow to return calls from the Phillies and are also aware that if they send him elsewhere, he could still wind up in Philadelphia if they're not careful. The two biggest allies for the Phillies are likely to be the Red Sox and White Sox. Both clubs had some interest in Burnett, but would consider spinning him to Philly in exchange for closer Billy Wagner.
The White Sox are especially interested. They are said to be begging Ed Wade for a deal that would send Wagner to the Windy City. The folks in Chicago are reportedly doing all they can to get Burnett, who could be the only piece of bait that they could use to land a deal for Wagner.
If the Phillies were to deal Wagner, they would have a couple of options for a closer. One would be to promote Ugueth Urbina to the role and the other would seem to be Tampa Bay's Danys Baez. The Phillies have asked the D'Rays about Baez and third baseman Aubrey Huff. They have also made their annual inquiry into the availability of outfielder Carl Crawford and have again been told "no". For their part, Tampa is interested in Vicente Padilla and some young pitchers that the Phillies have, possibly including Gavin Floyd or Cole Hamels.
If Burnett doesn't wind up in Philadelphia, sites will likely turn west to Seattle. Joel Piniero and Jamie Moyer are the targets there. Piniero has had a down year and there are some concerns about his health. Moyer has long been a target of the Phillies and he has expressed an interest in pitching for the Phils, since he is from Souderton, Pennsylvania. It wasn't long ago when it looked like Moyer would be joining the Phillies as a free agent, but he chose to stay in Seattle where he has spent most of his career.
Depending who you listen to, Jason Schmidt and Kip Wells, two earlier targets of the Phillies, are off the market. Even if Wells isn't available, his teammate in Pittsburgh, Mark Redman might be. That could wind up being Plan C for the Phils.
Getting back to Burnett for a moment; Who has missed more games because of injury over the past three seasons, A.J. Burnett or Vicente Padilla. If you said the oft-injured Padilla, you would be wrong. Burnett is a disabled list transaction waiting to happen and the Phillies should be careful in putting together a deal to bring him to town.
There are even more deals that could be done before Sunday night's deadline.
The Yankees have been looking at Endy Chavez, Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton. The Phillies could ship one of them to the Yankees, but wouldn't likely be able to get much pitching help in return. A deal involving either Chavez or Lofton is the most likely, with Chavez perhaps being the most interesting choice for the Yankees. He would come at a cheaper price, allowing the Yankees to keep their roster pretty much intact and since they're looking primarily for a center fielder who can simply catch the ball, Chavez would seem to fit the bill. Don't be surprised if Chavez starts a game either Saturday or Sunday in Colorado as a showcase. If he does, you can bet that the talks are heating up.
The Padres expressed some minor interest in Mike Lieberthal, but decided to go with the cheaper David Ross instead. Lieberthal would have likely waived his no-trade clause to head to the Pads after their catcher, Ramon Hernandez, went down with an injury and will likely miss up to six weeks. There is only the smallest of chances that Lieberthal would be dealt. Not that the Phillies wouldn't move him in the right deal, but his no-trade clause seems to leave the Dodgers as the only possibility now that the Padres got Ross. The Dodgers don't seem to be too hot on Lieberthal's trail, even though he has always been a strong hitter at Dodger Stadium.
As for bait, Wagner is a possibility. Getting swept in Houston may have made him a little more available than he was at this time last week. If the Marlins were to talk to the Phillies, it would be interesting to see if they would do Wagner for Burnett. Odds are that they would perhaps consider that deal, but only as a last resort. The Red Sox are said to be dangling either third base prospect Hanley Ramirez or catching prospect Kelly Shoppach as bait. Shoppach has 21 homeruns and a .260 average at AAA Pawtucket and the Phillies should definitely be interested.
There is some sentiment in the organization that while Padilla is pitching well, he should be dealt before his next slide or injury. Again, it's not out of the question, but the Phillies don't seem to be in a hurry to move Padilla.
Ryan Howard appears to be off the table. Jim Thome's sore elbow is giving him problems longer than anticipated and the Phillies believe that Howard is now a bigger part of their club than they had earlier thought. His major league showcase has gone well and there are definitely teams that are interested, but it's not likely that he'll exit this weekend. Of course, with the continuing injury issues for Thome, he too, can be considered off the table. He's viewed as damaged goods, at best and at the end of his career, at worst.
If Wagner isn't dealt, Urbina could be somewhat of a fall back type player for other clubs. He's had experience closing and has pitched in pennant stretches before. He's cheaper than Wagner and like Wagner, is also a free agent at the end of the season. Plus, he has pitched extremely well since coming over from Detroit and could be a target for some clubs.